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UNICEF is there for New Orleans

Back in April, I traveled to New Orleans for the first time to meet up with my best friend, a Tulane alum. For years, she had boasted about the wonder of the city. Finally seeing it with my own eyes, I was struck by the thought that less than three years ago Hurricane Katrina had caused the death of more than one thousand people and had displaced nearly two million”including hundreds of thousands of children.

On Monday, almost three years to the day since Katrina, New Orleans was struck by another hurricane. Fortunately, Hurricane Gustav’s damage was minimal compared to the devastation left in Katrina’s wake.


katrina02.jpg
© UNICEF/ HQ05-1112/Radhika Chalasani
On September 10, 2005, a woman carries her one-month-old grandson, Devon, in a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the city of Houma, Louisiana. The family, who stayed in their home for nine days after the storm, was forcibly evacuated to the shelter. About half of the displaced in the shelter were children.

Did you know Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic, in fact, that it marked the first time in history UNICEF was asked to assist in an emergency on American soil? Immediately, UNICEF set out to build an international task force with assistance from partner organizations including the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and three UN interagency teams.

Funds raised by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF added crucial support to the recovery effort. Within two weeks, 935 School-in-a-Box kits and 740 recreation kits were flown in from UNICEF’s central warehouse in Copenhagen.

Back in April, I traveled to New Orleans for the first time to meet up with my best friend, a Tulane alum. For years, she had boasted about the wonder of the city. Finally seeing it with my own eyes, I was struck by the thought that less than three years ago Hurricane Katrina had caused the death of more than one thousand people and had displaced well over a million“including hundreds of thousands of children.

On Monday, almost three years to the day since Katrina, New Orleans was struck by another hurricane. Fortunately, Hurricane Gustav’s damage was minimal compared to the devastation left in Katrina’s wake.


katrina02.jpg
© UNICEF/ HQ05-1112/Radhika Chalasani
On September 10, 2005, a woman carries her one-month-old grandson, Devon, in a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the city of Houma, Louisiana. The family, who stayed in their home for nine days after the storm, was forcibly evacuated to the shelter. About half of the displaced in the shelter were children.

Did you know Hurricane Katrina was so catastrophic, in fact, that it marked the first time in history UNICEF was asked to assist in an emergency on American soil? Immediately, UNICEF set out to build an international task force with assistance from partner organizations including the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and three UN interagency teams.

Funds raised by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF added crucial support to the recovery effort. Within two weeks, 935 School-in-a-Box kits and 740 recreation kits were flown in from UNICEF’s central warehouse in Copenhagen.

Each of UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box kits included exercise books, pens, pencils, writing slates and scissors”providing 80 children with the tools they’d need to continue their education in even the worst conditions. UNICEF knows from lots of experience working with kids who have suffered emotional trauma that returning them to school as quickly as possible is one of the most effective ways to help them heal.

The School-in-a-Box kits and recreation kits were delivered throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, enabling kids”whose homes or schools were destroyed”the chance to be kids again. The kits also ensured that all children in the Gulf South”whether they had relocated to a temporary shelter a state away or not”could return to a learning environment at the start of the school year.


katrina01.jpg
© UNICEF/HQ05-1120/Mia Brandt
On September 10, 2005, children displaced by Hurricane Katrina help unpack supplies from a UNICEF recreation kit in the city of Meridien, Mississippi. The kit is part of a shipment of UNICEF supplies trucked from the state of Arkansas to shelters for thousands displaced by the disaster in the state of Mississippi.

Three years later, September is upon us once more and New Orleans’ children are heading back to school post-hurricane

3 Comments

  1. Barbara Horton
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    This is the first I have heard of UNICEF’s participation in the recovery of Katrina, which is especially noteworthy since it was UNICEF’s first time assisting “in an emergency on American soil”. It really points to the fact that Katrina was a disaster of world-wide proportions.

  2. Austin Sutta
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    It was wonderful to see that UNICEF had written an article regarding Hurricane Katrina and the way it has continued to affect the lives of schoolchildren. In the three years since the hurricane hit the gulf coast, is seems that the vast majority of Americans have forgotten that people’s lives are still dramatically affected by Katrina. News coverage has all but ceased, and while there was recently a small amount of coverage due to Hurricane Gustov, overall the absence of news regarding Hurricane Katrina and its’ victims has been worrisome to me. People in the gulf coast continue to struggle every day, attempting to return to some sense of normalcy, and while it is convenient for all of those not affected to assume that things are back to the way they were in New Orleans, this is a luxury that is not afforded to those who are still in the process of putting their lives back together. In my opinion, the federal government did not fulfill its’ obligation to its’ citizens regarding the federal response to the hurricane; aid was insufficient three years ago when Katrina hit, and the federal aid to New Orleans continues to be insufficient as the government outsources rebuilding jobs instead of stimulating the local economy by employing New Orleans residents in the rebuilding efforts. There are many families who continue to live altered lives, in FEMA trailers and other sub-standard living environments.
    However, what has bothered me most about the lack of Katrina coverage in the years following the Hurricane is that people seem to have all but forgotten about the Hurricane’s most vulnerable victims- the children afflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Reading this article about the donation of School-In-A-Box Kits by UNICEF to the children of the gulf coast was very heartwarming and made me feel better knowing that someone is looking out for and taking care of New Orleans youth. These children deserve the opportunities of the most privileged in our society, and it is our obligation to afford them such opportunities. Thank you UNICEF for remembering to help those who cannot help themselves, and for giving these children the hope for a better future in a time when hope seemed to be a frivolous emotion.

  3. Robin Munro
    Posted September 11, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    As a former New Orleans resident, I watched with horror as the city I loved became inundated with toxic water after the levees broke in 2005. I was only in New Orleans a brief time – 3 years – but while there as a college undergrad, I immersed myself in the New Orleans public school system as a tutor, TA and mentor to students of all ages. It was disturbing to see how poor an education these kids receive. The tremendous opportunity to recreate an entire school system from the ground up has been Katrina’s only silver lining. That and the fact that national, televised attention has finally been brought to this crisis. It’s inspiring to see not just aid organizations come to New Orleans, but private citizens also actually uprooting their lives to be a part of the reformation in New Orleans education. I admire UNICEF’s effort to improve the situation for New Orleans children and am excited to see how the experimental model in public education recently introduced in New Orleans schools will turn out.

    Hurricane season is always an anxious time for New Orleans — I stayed for two potential Katrinas, before everyone’s complacency was washed away by the real thing — but I hope that restored levees, still an incomplete task, and greater caution will allow New Orleans to thrive and its children to feel safe living in an otherwise gorgeous, interesting, historic city.

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